Proper Catch and Release

Catch and Release (C&R) generally means landing a fish, holding it up to show off, taking a few photos and putting the fish back in the water to fight another day.  But C&R also reflects the core values of WSA and its long-standing Free the Fighter (FTF) focus. 
Both C&R and FTF refer to letting smallmouth bass and other game fish go for someone else to enjoy the fight.  However the Catch and Release part has much more meaning and involves the care and PROPER handling of the fish to ensure it has the highest chance of survival. 
The Wisconsin’s DNR offers these steps:
  • Land the fish as quickly as possible.
  • Keep the fish in the water as much as possible.
  • Handle the fish as little as possible. Use wet hands or gloves.
  • If the fish is deeply hooked, cut the line and let the fish go.
  • Treat the fish gently throughout the release.
Building on this base, WSA recommends:
  • Never holding the fish by its lower lip in a torqued position.
  • Using a gripper to avoid putting fingers in gills.
  • Cradling the fish with both hands to support its weight.
  • Minimizing time when displaying and taking photos.
  • Easing the fish back into the water rather than tossing it.
  • Using a rubber net, needle nose pliers, and fish handling gloves.
  • Substituting circle hooks or barbless hooks on lures.
  • Educating fellow fishers about the proper C&R steps.
Research in various states with different fish species shows that torquing the lower jaw and suspending a fish by its full weight can result in physical damage.  This damage and stress can eventually result in death.   
Here is a link to an important study showing what happens when a bass is improperly handled:  In addition, other informative fish handling articles are included in portions of our website that will help in this important handling sequence. 
Ten percent is a common mortality rate that can be much greater under higher water temperatures.  Mortality also increases if fish are handled by their gills. 
Proper handling makes all the difference when you practice Catch and Release and Free the Fighter.  The fish and fellow fishers will appreciate it.